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Northwest New Mexico a ‘hotbed’ for COVID-19 cases

Governor loosens restrictions, but not in San Juan County
A chart presented during New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s April 30 news conference, showing how the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to rise in the northwest portion of the state, despite overall declines in the statewide rate of spread.

FARMINGTON – While not out of the woods yet, public health officials said New Mexico is likely past its peak of COVID-19 cases, but the northwest corner of the state, including San Juan County, remains a hotbed for the virus.

At a news conference Thursday, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a public health order effective Friday loosening restrictions on nonessential businesses. But the new order – replacing a previous order issued April 11 – specifically excludes San Juan, McKinley and Cibola counties.

“This order shall be effective in all counties of New Mexico except for Cibola County, McKinley County and San Juan County,” it states. “This order may be renewed consistent with any direction from the governor. Cibola County, McKinley County and San Juan County remain subject to the terms of the April 11, 2020, Public Health Emergency Order through May 15, 2020.”

For the rest of the state, nonessential retailers can now provide curbside pickup, and golf courses and state parks can open for day-use.

The northwest corner of the state remains a trouble spot for public health officials. San Juan County has 637 positive cases out of 4,429 completed tests with 49 virus-related deaths reported. McKinley County, including Gallup, had 1,064 positive cases out of 6,366 completed tests with 20 virus-related deaths. Cibola County had 63 positive cases out of 927 completed tests with three virus-related deaths.

At the request of the mayor of Gallup and the support of Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, Lujan Grisham also announced Friday she was locking down the city of Gallup, effective noon Friday. As part of the order, all roads into Gallup are closed, businesses will close from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m., vehicles can have no more than two individuals and residents were told to shelter in place.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham during Thursday’s news conference where she announced a new public order loosening restrictions on nonessential businesses, except for three counties in the northwest part of the state.

“Physical distancing has not occurred and is not occurring. The virus is running amok there,” Lujan Grisham said in Friday’s announcement. “It must be stopped, and stricter measures are necessary to stop the virus. A problem in one part of our state, with a virus this dangerous and contagious, is a problem for our entire state.”

The order locking down Gallup, unless renewed, will expire Monday.

During the news conference Thursday, Lujan Grisham hinted there may be additional restrictions for San Juan, Cibola and McKinley counties but did not provide specifics at that time.

“The NW region has the highest growth rate; week-over-week improvement is leveling off indicating additional actions are critical,” according to a modeling report on the Department of Health’s website.

Thursday also marked New Mexico’s deadliest day yet of the COVID-19 pandemic with 11 new deaths related to the virus, the governor’s office said. The state had a total of 3,513 cases out of 71,118 completed tests as of Friday morning, according to the Department of Heath. There have been 131 deaths related to COVID-19.

lweber@durangoherald.com

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